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SBD/March 20, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Mets Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz scored a "major legal victory -- one that might well preserve their control of the team" -- thanks to a settlement reached Friday and announced yesterday with Irving Picard, trustee for the Bernie Madoff fraud victims, according to a front-page piece by Sandomir & Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The settlement calls for Wilpon and Katz to pay Picard $162M, but that figure "is likely to be reduced or wiped out altogether as the complex bankruptcy litigation involving Mr. Madoff’s investment operation plays out." The settlement -- under which the owners "may not have to pay the trustee anything out of their pockets -- makes clear that it was the trustee who blinked at the 11th hour." If Picard had prevailed at trial, he could have "recouped as much as $303 million, in addition to the $83 million the Mets’ owners were already ordered to pay." His decision to settle for much less "was regarded by a number of experts as a kind of surrender on the explosive assertions that were central to the case." However, the Mets, as a baseball operation, "still face significant financial trouble." The club has "lost some $120 million over the past two years," but the "resolution of the lawsuit, and on such favorable terms, ends an enormous financial threat" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20). On Long Island, Anthony DeStefano notes the agreement was brokered Friday night by former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, "who served as a mediator in the case for the past year." Mixing "persuasion and hard realism, Cuomo painted for both sides a stark picture of the unpredictable nature of trials and the years of expensive appeals that could follow." Cuomo said, "The principal force was proximity to trial. As the parties got closer to trial, they got closer to the realities of trial" (NEWSDAY, 3/20). SportsNet N.Y.'s Steve Kallas said, “They both had a lot to lose going to trial. I think at the eleventh hour and with Mario Cuomo’s help, I think they decided it was best for both parties to end it now. I think certainly that was the correct decision for both parties because again, you don’t know what the jury is going to do” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/19).
A GOOD DAY FOR WILPONS, KATZ: In N.Y. Kevin Kernan writes the Wilpons "came up huge winners yesterday." They still have "their Mets and they may not have to part with a lot of money" as a result of the settlement. However, in the court of public opinion there is "only one way to win, and that is to become a respectable team on the field." If they "do that, they will win the fans back." If they "don’t, and the fans stay away, they will not be able to climb out of the financial hole they have dug for themselves" (N.Y. POST, 3/20). MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal said, "By and large, considering all the Mets were up against here, the potential, they did very well” ("MLB Tonight Live," MLB Network, 3/19). ESPN N.Y.'s Adam Rubin wrote under the header, "Mets End Madoff Mess With A Win" (ESPNNY.com, 3/19). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Wilpon and Katz "finally won something Monday, not just in the financial terms of the deal they made, but because they are allowed to look forward again instead of back at what Madoff did to them." Lupica: "After all the talk, so much of it empty talk, about a trustee who you were supposed to believe would get a billion dollars off Wilpon and Katz, the issue now becomes one of trust between the Mets owners and their fans." It will be a "much harder case to win, and [it] starts now" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20).
A WIN IS A WIN? Forbes sports business writer Patrick Rishe said that it "could have been much worse for the Mets." Rishe added the settlement "is good news for Mets owners, bad news for Mets fans." USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy notes either way, the Mets "can move on; the trial was scheduled to last three weeks." Rishe: "Having something like this in your rearview mirror is better than staring it in the face" (USA TODAY, 3/20). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote Wilpon is "still a net loser in every conceivable way." The Mets are a "big-market joke with small-market bottom lines, and Wilpon's dreadful decisions in business and baseball are to blame." His fan base "wants him out, and even the Mets' loyal, good-natured customers were hoping for some outcome before a judge and jury that left them with a new rich guy in charge" (ESPNNY.com, 3/19). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote there was a time "when what was best for the Wilpons was best for the Mets." Brown: "I'm not so sure about that anymore" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/19). In N.Y., Joe Nocera writes Wilpon and Katz, in effect, "switched sides." They agreed to settle for $162M and at "first glance, it is a very good deal for the Mets’ owners." But look "again: it still adds up to six years’ worth of Madoff profits -- exactly what the trustee has been demanding of all the other Madoff net winners." Katz and Wilpon also agreed to "end their role in the litigation over whether Picard can claw back from the net winners." That litigation "is doomed anyway." In other words, instead of "letting their anger carry the day, the owners of the Mets did what they had to do, which included, essentially, agreeing with the trustee’s legal view of the Madoff bankruptcy" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).
COULD METS INCREASE PAYROLL NOW? In N.Y., Mike Puma cites a source as saying that the new "relative financial certainty" of the Wilpon and Katz' situation might lead to the owners "opening their wallets to help improve the team." An MLB exec predicted that the Mets' payroll "would increase next season." The exec said, "It’s tough to make any (financial) commitment when you don’t know what any costs are" (N.Y. POST, 3/20). Also in N.Y., Whitehouse & Bennett note if the Mets "do fork over their whole $162 million share and collect the $178 million they’re claiming as victims -- they can actually make" as much as $16M. However, the settlement does not mean the Mets' finances "are back in shape." The team is "now looking to refinance the rest of the money owed, staving off" a '14 deadline. In addition, the $600M Citi Field construction "costs the team $50 million a year" (N.Y. POST, 3/20). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Andrew Keh noted what Wilpon could "conceivably do in the short term ... is send some positive signals over the future status of David Wright, who at 29 remains the face of the franchise." Wright will earn $15M this season, with the Mets "holding a $16 million option" for '13. Whether Wilpon "might now feel more tempted to try to keep Wright for the long term remains to be seen." But he "might, if for no other reason than to send a signal to the team’s discontented fan base that he is willing to make at least one investment in the team’s future at some point this season." Marlins SS Jose Reyes was "let go this winter without a fight; letting fans know that Wright might be staying put might soothe some wounds" (NYTIMES.com, 3/19).
DEBT REDUCTION: The N.Y. TIMES' Belson cites sources as saying that the Mets appear to have "sold all 12 minority stakes in the club for $20 million each, money they are expected to use as soon as tomorrow to repay the MLB and Bank of America loans." Finances have been "so tight that in November, the Mets laid off nearly 10 percent of their 180 front office employees." Those money pressures "are not likely to disappear overnight." Attendance fell again in '11, "even though the Mets have cut ticket prices several times in recent years." And in a bit of "unfortunate timing, the three-year contracts for some of the luxury suites at Citi Field are up for renewal amid the negative environment in which the Mets have been forced to operate." Those suites go for "as much as $500,000 a season, significant money for the Mets, but what the renewal rate is at this point is not known" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20). In N.Y., Josh Kosman notes the minority share sale and loan repayments give the team "breathing room with its lenders and -- combined with yesterday's Picard settlement -- appears to have saved the franchise." The minority stake sales allowed Wilpon and Katz to pay off MLB and Bank of America, and sources said that the partners also paid "at least $100 million towards $430 million of team debt" (N.Y. POST, 3/20). The Mets owners are "expected to use the $240 million raised from the sale to help cover operating costs" during the '12 season (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20).
The Broncos this morning reached a five-year, $96M deal with QB Peyton Manning, according to sources cited by Jeff Legwold of the DENVER POST. The contract "does include some injury protection for the Broncos," as Manning has had four recent neck surgeries that forced him to miss the enitre '11 season. Manning is "scheduled to be formally introduced as the newest Broncos quarterback" during a 3:00pm ET press conference today (DENVERPOST.com, 3/20). In Denver, Mike Klis in a front-page piece notes there is "not all joy in Broncosville," as Manning's arrival "almost certainly will mean the end" of QB Tim Tebow's time with the team (DENVER POST, 3/20). ESPN.com's Mortensen & Schefter reported the Broncos have "few concerns with Manning's medical condition." Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway now has "helped produce Denver's biggest win since he led the Broncos to their last Super Bowl victory" in January '99 (ESPN.com, 3/19).
THIS ONE'S FOR JOHN: ESPN.com's Ashley Fox wrote under the header, "Elway's Drive Saves Broncos Again." Acquiring Manning is a "monstrous win for the franchise, the city of Denver and Broncos fans everywhere, and an even bigger win for Elway." Knowing firsthand how "immensely popular Tebow was, Elway still orchestrated the biggest free-agency coup ever." There is a "chance it might not work," and if it does not, "even the great John Elway will be vilified." But Elway "didn't care" (ESPN.com, 3/19). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes under the header, "Elway Wins With Bold, Brassy Pick." Kiszla: "Kudos to Elway, who again proved why the league has seldom seen anybody with such ability to lead a late, winning drive. It was bold. It was brassy. It has little room for failure" (DENVER POST, 3/20). In Boston, Chad Finn wrote, "Give John Elway the Executive of the Year award now." Landing Manning "is a coup." By signing Manning, Elway has "managed to find the only way he could displace and even trade the wildly popular Tim Tebow without enduring significant backlash" (BOSTON.com, 3/19). In Denver, Woody Paige writes Elway was the "difference-maker as an executive, just as he had been as a player." Paige: "I never should have doubted Elway in his resolve to lure Manning to Denver" (DENVER POST, 3/20). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes Elway and Manning have a "strong relationship, and it probably wasn't difficult for Elway to sell Manning on the benefit of an aging quarterback playing for a balanced team" (USA TODAY, 3/20). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, “It made a lot of sense these two struck a connection and it’s one of the main reasons that Peyton Manning will soon be a Denver Bronco” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 3/19).
GAMBLING MAN: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote signing Manning is the "biggest gamble any general manager has made in the history of football." If it works, Elway will "secure himself as a Hall of Fame executive to go along with his Hall of Fame arm." If this fails, it will "go down as the greatest flop in league history." Elway will "never recover from it, and the Broncos organization will be set back for some time" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/19). In Colorado Springs, David Ramsey writes under the header, "Elway Tackles Risk Of A Lifetime In Signing Manning." Ramsey: "The peril is there. But that’s how Elway operates, and I applaud his nerve, even if I’m filled with questions." Elway is "taking a chance at greatness." He could "crash, but this chance is worth it" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 3/20). In Denver, Mike Littwin writes it was "bold to chase Manning without any certainty he could catch him." This was "exactly the kind of high-risk, high-reward stuff that made Elway into Elway and still apparently defines him" (DENVER POST, 3/20). ESPN.com's Bill Williamson wrote yesterday was the "biggest day in Denver Broncos history since John Elway won his second straight Super Bowl 13 years ago." While Elway was a "huge factor in Denver's landing Manning, do not underestimate the role of Fox." He is a "player-friendly coach who will allow Manning the freedom to do what he likes" (ESPN.com, 3/19). The DENVER POST's Kiszla writes "score a big victory" for Bowlen and Elway, the man who "made this deal happen" (DENVER POST, 3/20).
PUSHED ASIDE? YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote Manning "provides Elway and Fox the political cover to push Tebow aside." The Denver fans who once "erected a billboard for Tebow aren’t going to rebel when they just signed a guy who, if healthy, is one of the top three quarterbacks in the NFL" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/19). The AP's Tim Dahlberg asks of Tebow, "What do you do with a wobbly armed quarterback who never seems to pick it up until the fourth quarter?" A quarterback who "somehow found ways to win, but whose real attraction is as an attraction who can fill seats?" What owner -- "other than, maybe, newcomer Shahid Khan in Jacksonville -- is going to pay a premium for a Tebowmania craze that might already be over?" (AP, 3/20).
The Broncos' signing of free agent QB Peyton Manning means incumbent QB Tim Tebow is likely on the market and “any franchise that needs to become more relevant with its fan base would have to be interested in Tebow," according to Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. Tebow's contract is “trade-friendly” and he also “can help a team win.” His jersey and memorabilia "are among the league's best sellers” (DENVER POST, 3/20). Klis wrote Tebow “singlehandedly made the Broncos relevant” last season and “singlehandedly energized the Broncos’ fan base.” Tebow also “all but singlehandedly lifted a bad team” to the playoffs. Klis: “What owner who struggles to sell 10,000 seats every home week wouldn’t want that?” (DENVERPOST.com, 3/19). WFAN-AM’s Joe Benigno said, “I think Tim Tebow make as lot of sense in two places: Miami and Jacksonville. He will sell tickets in both of those places. He is an icon in Florida” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/19).
CASE FOR JAGUARS: In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote it would “make more sense for one of the Florida teams that has attendance problems, the Jaguars or Dolphins, to acquire Tebow.” He would “instantly increase their market value, especially the Jaguars.” Bedard wrote of the Jaguars, “I know the football people there don't want Tebow, but if I'm owner [Shahid] Khan, I'm directing the front office to acquire Tebow purely for ticket reasons. Let the coaches figure out where to play him” (BOSTON.com, 3/19). ESPN’s Skip Bayless said, “Jacksonville, his hometown, dying franchise can’t even come close to selling out. It makes all the sense in the world to me” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 3/20). CNBC's Darren Rovell said, “From a business perspective, they need Tebow” (“Street Signs,” CNBC, 3/19). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote the Jaguars “haven’t been relevant or interesting in more than a decade,” and they “need to go out and bring Tebow back home where he belongs.” Tebow is from the Jacksonville area and attended the Univ. of Florida. Khan has “already gone on record as saying he would have ‘100 percent’ drafted Tebow if he’d been the owner of the team three seasons ago when Tebow came out of college” (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 3/19). The Chicago Tribune's Von McClure: “I do think if they were to acquire Tebow that they’re going to give him the best shot to start because he’s going to sell tickets” ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 3/19). But in Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote, “I’ve said and written before that you never bring any player, Tebow included, into your organization for the sole purpose of selling tickets. You draft, trade or sign players because you believe they give you a better chance to win, period.” He added, “You don’t bring in Tebow to attract media attention or spur ticket sales. Make it only about football and winning, not because of some romanticized notion with the orange-and-blue portion of the fan base” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 3/19). ESPN’s Mike Golic: “My only issue is if it’s not going to work and you are not winning, you are not filling the stadium. Sell tickets -- at the beginning they will, but if you are 7-9 or 8-8 are you selling out, are you selling tickets?” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 3/20).
CASE FOR DOLPHINS: USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell in a sports section cover story writes, “Remember where Tebow’s rise began last season? Miami. It was the Dolphins’ first sellout of the season.” He added, “Bring him back, and Tebow would surely sell tickets and appeal to Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross’ celebrity factor” (USA TODAY, 3/20). On Long Island, Bob Glauber writes Tebow would “surely be attractive” to Ross, who has “taken a public beating with his inability to attract big-time players and/or coaches to the Dolphins” (NEWSDAY, 3/20). ESPN’s Michael Smith said the Dolphins should want Tebow because they have “swung and missed on trying to get all sorts of people as a head coach and a quarterback to play for them." ESPN’s Charissa Thompson said Tebow “would put people in the seats” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN, 3/19). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin notes the “issue is whether Tebow would breathe life into a franchise that has been treading water or -- because of his unorthodox style and unpolished skills -- bring chaos to the efforts to improve under new coach Joe Philbin.” The Dolphins could “stick with incumbent Matt Moore, but he doesn't have the [pizzazz] to energize a season-ticket base that was in the low 40,000s and could be dwindling, raising the possibility of local-TV blackouts on a regular basis.” If the Dolphins “want to sell tickets, it could be tempting to turn to Tebow.” The Dolphins, who last season “averaged 59,069 fans in their six home games not involving the Jets or Patriots, sold 63,800 tickets when Tebow and the Broncos came to town.” Still, Tebow “might be a terrible fit in the West Coast offense that Philbin coached successfully the last five seasons” with the Packers (PALM BEACH POST, 3/20).
NOT SO FAST: YAHOO SPORTS’ Les Carpenter noted any quarterback competition Tebow is “thrown into will be a fiasco.” It is “not the situation for a new coach, or a coach who sits uneasy in his job.” Tebow’s arrival in almost any NFL city “will be as much of an internal disaster as a public relations boon.” This is why it is “hard to imagine Tebow in his hometown of Jacksonville, where new coach Mike Mularkey is supposed to be trying to establish Blaine Gabbert, the team’s top draft pick from last year, as the franchise quarterback.” It is also “difficult to imagine new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin rushing to throw Tebow into the lineup while trying to build a program in Miami” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/19). In N.Y., Judy Battista in a sports section cover story writes Tebow’s popularity among fans “may work against him,” as teams could be “reluctant to face what the Broncos did last season -- managing a polarizing player whose fans demanded he play, even if his football skills did not match up with the team’s needs” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20). ESPN’s Mark Schlereth said, "Some owner might step in and say, ‘I want to sell jerseys and I want to have some excitement. I want to make this move.’ But right now ... I don’t think any football people really want him on their football team” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 3/19).
QB Peyton Manning's decision to sign with the Broncos after being courted by the Dolphins “tells you how far the Dolphins brand has fallen, how much the bar has been lowered in recent years,” according to Dave Hyde of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland can “calm the waters and help the offense by finding the right quarterback this off-season,” but their “equal job is to figure why the NFL insiders run the other way from their organization.” Hyde writes the Dolphins were the "best fit for his non-football checklist," but when Manning “looked seriously inside the organization, his thoughts changed.” He “back-pedaled so quickly the Dolphins had to enlist the services of former Dolphin greats like Dan Marino and Jason Taylor to phone him and help secure a visit.” The body of work Ross and Ireland “have assembled over the last few years evidently scared Manning.” Hyde wrote, “It's not so much Manning chose another great team. It's that he thought B-listers like Arizona and Tennessee were better” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/20). In Miami, Greg Cote wonders, “What has happened to this once-proud, now-ridiculed franchise?” The Dolphins “lead the league in major rejection despite a proud (if receding) tradition and a tropical locale tourists save up to visit.” Throw in rookie head coach Joe Philbin and “you have a top management that lacks both a heavyweight presence and a track record, a management team that obviously does not inspire confidence but rather invites trepidation.” Dolphins officials’ “recent failures have been spectacular.” Cote: “Reputations can form and harden quickly, and recent results suggest it has been tough for Miami’s owner and GM to overcome the perception -- fair or not, accurate or not -- that they are in over their heads.” Ireland has made “some solid moves here that worked,” but if he is “not respected around the league, rejections will continue” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/20). DEADSPIN.com's Barry Petchesky wrote, "Believe me when I tell you that I say this with zero malice: the Dolphins are a pathetic franchise at the moment." Manning took a meeting with Philbin and his staff only "as a favor" to Marino, who "called Peyton's personal phone and pleaded for some show of engagement" (DEADSPIN.com, 3/19).
THE BLAME GAME: The SUN-SENTINEL’s Hyde writes it is “becoming open season on Ireland from his NFL players.” Free agent LB and former Dolphin Joey Porter said of the problems with the team, "Jeff Ireland has a big part to do with it. I don't think when you come in and you're being recruited by him you really believe the things that are coming out of his mouth. He's just a guy that is not trustworthy." It is “one thing for Ireland to be a front-office tough guy,” but it is “another for him to have the kind of developed reputation that's hurting the football team.” Hyde: “And we're at that point now” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/20). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said players do not want to play for the Dolphins, and noted, “I look at the Miami Heat, everybody wants to play basketball there. I look at the Miami Marlins now, it seems like people want to play there.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon noted Ireland is “not calling the shots at those two franchises.” Kornheiser: “If it is this one guy -- and he’s the guy who asked Dez Bryant, ‘Is your mother a prostitute’ -- maybe that went out among players and they said, ‘We’re staying away from this guy.’ ... I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to play for the Miami Dolphins. That’s a wonderful, historic franchise” ("PTI," ESPN, 3/19). NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington said of the Dolphins, “If you are confused about the Dolphins’ blueprint right now, you are not alone. This is a situation where internally within that building some are starting to wonder what is up general manager Jeff Ireland’s sleeve.” NFL Network’s Warren Sapp said of the Dolphins, “It’s like an exodus right now in Miami. Everyone is leaving like Hurricane Andrew is coming. ... Right now their front office is in shambles” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 3/19).
SLIPPING FROM NO. 1? Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said that market research conducted by the franchise “shows the team remains a top-five brand across the country.” But in Ft. Lauderdale, Izzy Gould noted, “After years of bad hires and losing seasons, the Dolphins these days seem to be struggling to put it all back together.” The team “struck out landing big names such as Manning, [Matt] Flynn and coaches Jeff Fisher and Jim Harbaugh.” They have “suffered through three straight losing seasons,” and attendance at Sun Life Stadium “is falling and they've had to buy thousands of unsold tickets to keep games on television locally.” In addition, the Dolphins are also “facing increasing competition from other franchises -- the Heat, Marlins and Panthers -- for the local sports dollar” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/19).
The Warriors retired Basketball HOFer Chris Mullin's No. 17 jersey last night, but the tribute "took a terribly ugly turn when Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob grabbed the microphone," according to Rusty Simmons of the S.F. CHRONICLE. After 30 minutes of "loud cheers and standing ovations for anyone and everyone associated with the Warriors, Lacob got roundly booed" for trading G Monta Ellis to the Bucks last week. Mullin and fellow Basketball HOFer Rick Barry "tried to calm and shame the disapproving crowd," but every time Lacob started talking, the "angry boos returned with more vigor." It was "reminiscent of the 2000 All-Star Game scene when then-owner Chris Cohan was booed as he appeared with his son" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Marc Spears notes Lacob "stopped his speech for Mullin after the monsoon of boos drowned him out." Mullin eventually "walked over to Lacob, put his arm around him and whispered into his ear." Mullin said to the fans, "Sometimes change is inevitable, and it’s going to be just fine with your support and patience." Warriors analyst Tom Tolbert described the scene as "awkward, uncomfortable." Tolbert: "It wasn’t about Lacob, it wasn’t about Monta or direction, it was about honoring the past. And instead, it turned into a condemnation of the Warriors and trading Monta." When asked if he was surprised by the fans’ reaction, Lacob said, "Wouldn’t you be?" Lacob after the game said, "Fans are upset that we traded one of their favorites. That’s all I can attribute that to. What I feel bad about is they ruined a night that was very special. The organization really tried to do the right thing" for Mullin (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/20).
NIGHT WON'T BE FORGOTTEN: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami writes the night will "never be forgotten -- surely not by Lacob, not by [coach] Mark Jackson, not by the Warriors staffers who all seemed stunned, not by the handful of players who were on the court at the time." Either Lacob "has the stuff to move past this sea of rage, and beat it back ... or he doesn't." Kawakami writes, "The initial indication: Lacob did just fine. He didn't quail. He got visibly mad, but he didn't duck for cover. He went back out to his courtside seat in the second half. He kept clapping and cheering for all to see." But Lacob "didn't deserve THAT treatment." He is not Cohan, and if fans "were torturing him for the Monta Ellis trade, he really didn't deserve that, because it's a good far-sighted trade." When asked about his reaction to Lacob being booed, Jackson said, "Can't wait. Knowing him, knowing his commitment, knowing his passion ... the day is going to come where he's truly appreciated around here" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/20).
GETTING THE PICTURE: ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss writes Warriors fans are "grappling with a few finalities." This season "is done." Monta "is gone, probably forever." Promises have "yet to yield anything but more promises." Strauss writes, "People are passionate in Oakland, and it's going to be visceral and unadulterated or it's not going to be. ... These same people will also cheer Lacob if he takes a punch, stays public and starts winning. This is why I will not hand-wring over a rich man getting publicly tweaked. If you have respect for Lacob, any respect at all, then you believe he can absorb such criticism without shrinking into a fetal clench" (ESPN.com, 3/20). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote now maybe Lacob "gets the picture." Now maybe he "understands that the history of the franchise doesn’t get sliced up into portions depending on the identity of the owner." Nobody "escapes while the team is not winning." Nobody "gets a pass for good intentions." Six playoff appearances in 36 years, and one in 18, "shout far louder than a public relations gesture triggered by a generous spirit." Ratto wrote, "This wasn’t just Monta Ellis-trade booing either. This was all of it, unleashed by a fan base that knows how badly it has been taken advantage of over the years." Lacob can "save face, or at least some of it, by taking this moment and touring the stands for the next few games, explaining to any and all that undoing the rancid past is more like turning an ocean liner than backing out of a driveway." He has to "let the fans vent in smaller groups, or even individually" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 3/19).
LOCATION NEGOTIATION: In North Dakota, Lou Babiarz reports the NBA D-League Dakota Wizards will be "meeting with city officials within the next week to discuss the team’s future in Bismarck." Wizards GM Kirk Lacob said that the meeting is "tentatively scheduled for Friday, although it may be postponed to early next week." When the Warriors "purchased the Wizards last June, they announced that the team would remain in Bismarck" for the '11-12 season. After that, the Warriors "planned to evaluate whether to relocate the Wizards." The Wizards’ contract with the Civic Center extends through the '12-13 season, although "there is a buyout clause." Specifics of the meeting are also "sketchy, although Lacob said two issues to be addressed are scoreboards and sponsors" (BISMARCK TRIBUNE, 3/20).
In L.A., Bill Shaikin reports Shamrock Holdings President & CEO Stanley Gold and the Disney family were "reinstated to the Dodgers bidding" yesterday, leaving five parties in contention to buy the team. The Gold-Disney bid was rejected last week by a committee of MLB owners, "amid concerns over the structure of an offer that included private equity financing to back the launch of a regional sports network." The entire body of MLB owners is "expected to vote within the next week on the five remaining bidders" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20).
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME: In Houston, Zachary Levine noted the Astros yesterday launched a new ad campaign "in print, online, at the ballpark and around the city featuring the new slogan 'ROOT. ROOT. ROOT.'" That message "will be on billboards, signage at the ballpark and even on the home dugout at Minute Maid Park." Fifteen billboards will go up "across the city featuring five different Astros" -- 2B Jose Altuve, C Jason Castro, LF Carlos Lee, LF J.D. Martinez and P Bud Norris. The new campaign represents a "full break from last year’s slogan, 'We are your Astros,' as new management puts its own black-and-white, block-lettered stamp on the marketing side" (CHRON.com, 3/18).
MORE MARKETING CAMPAIGNS: The A's and Hub Strategy, S.F., are launching the third season of their "Green Collar Baseball" ad campaign. The program will feature TV and radio commercials, print, outdoor and digital advertisements. The "Green Collar Baseball" slogan will also be integrated throughout the A's marketing and ad campaign initiatives (A's)....YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Kaduk noted the new Twins commercials have been released for the '12 season, and they are "part 'Jack Handy,' part 'Major League,' and all pretty funny." Twins C Joe Mauer's "sneaky comic side might be one of the more underrated parts of his game" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/16).
PLATINUM JUBILEE: In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd wrote the excitement around the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards "is a stroke of marketing genius." Fans all season long will be "hearing ad nauseum about all the neat things the Orioles are doing to celebrate the occasion." Playing up the "wonderful ballpark in the hope that skeptical fans forget your team stinks is a Marketing 101 principle." Cowherd: "And if I were in charge of generating interest in the Orioles, I'd probably do the same thing" (Baltimore SUN, 3/19).
WATCH AND LEARN: In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw wrote the MLB Rangers are the "only team among the four local major pro clubs" that have not won a championship, but they are the "closest to the franchise ideal today." Rather than "rest on their laurels, they made a huge high-risk investment this winter" with the signing of Japanese P Yu Darvish. At worst, the five-year, $100M deal for Darvish "could be viewed as foolhardy." But with new TV money "on the horizon from Fox, it’s a risk worth taking." The payoff "could be tremendous for a team that already was stocked with pitching before Darvish’s arrival" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/19).